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NHC commissioner and superintendent respond to New Hanover High School shooting, cancel classes, open crisis line

Shooting at NHHHS on Monday, August 30, 2020.
Kelly Kenoyer
/
WHQR
A shooting at New Hanover High School on the morning of Monday, August 30, left the community shaken.

On Monday morning, a sprawling fight ended with gunfire, sending one student to the hospital and leaving another in custody. Officials responded later that day by offering crisis support.

Monday afternoon, New Hanover County opened a bilingual crisis intervention phone line. Students, parents, and staff, can speak in English or Spanish with a mental health therapist from the county's Health and Human Services department at 910-798-6501. The line will be open Tuesday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Families can also access crisis assistance through Trillium Health Resources Access Center at 877-685-2415.

Board of Commissioners chair Julia Olson-Boseman released a statement:

“As a parent with a child in the public school system, as a concerned resident, and as someone elected to keep our community safe and healthy, today was gut-wrenching and cannot be tolerated. I have spoken with New Hanover County School Board Chair Stefanie Adams and committed any resources needed from the county to help our students, families and staff through this frightening ordeal. No one, especially our children, should feel scared like they did today. If your child was at the school, New Hanover County has set up a number for you and your child to call to speak with a mental health therapist. We will also be working with New Hanover High School to have mental health therapists on campus for students to speak with. They need our support, and we are here to provide it. I have also asked for a joint meeting with Commissioners, the school board, and our law enforcement partners to discuss and then take actions to do more to keep our schools safe and protect our kids, so nothing like this happens again in our community. There is nothing more important than keeping our children safe.”

Monday evening, New Hanover County Schools held a press conference with superintendent Dr. Charles Foust and New Hanover High School principal Phillip Sutton. Officials said classes would be cancelled on Tuesday, August 31, and that the shooting would be audited 'from every angle' in the coming days in weeks — it is not yet clear if the results of that audit will be made public.

WHQR was not notified of the press conference, but you can view it below:

Dr. Foust also issued a statement:

This is a sad day for New Hanover County Schools, and as superintendent, this is not a conversation that I would ever wish to have.

I know I speak for myself, our Board of Education, our school leaders, and our teachers and staff, when I say that nothing that matters to us more than student safety. Nothing. If we don’t get that right, then everything else we are working toward as educators will fall short.

When our families send their children to school every morning, they are trusting us with the thing in the world that matters most to them.

We work every day to earn and to keep that trust.

Today one of our New Hanover County Schools families got a call that is every parent’s nightmare.

And many other students and their families experienced the kind of fear, shock, and uncertainty that we never want associated with one of our schools.

In the coming days and weeks, we will be conducting an audit of what happened today. We will be looking at it from every angle and we will be asking ourselves and our community partners what we can do to ensure that our schools are the safe harbor of learning and growth that we strive to be, for every student in every part of this county.

For today, I would like to share my heartfelt appreciation for what went right.

Our staff at New Hanover High School immediately did all they could to protect and comfort our students. In a moment that was no doubt frightening for them, and without giving it a second thought, they put students first. That is what our educators do, and we are so grateful for them.

Our Law enforcement partners and first responders were on the scene in minutes, and they worked tirelessly to secure our school and escort our students to safety.

Our New Hanover High School neighbors and nearby churches stepped in to help and share their resources, and we want them to know how much that meant to us.

Our district staff, from administrators to bus drivers, worked to make sure that thousands of students at New Hanover and other schools affected by this event got home safely.

Our students, even in a moment of trauma, followed the procedures we've taught them to keep themselves and others safe.

And our parents, our most trusted partners in educating our community’s children, showed us grace and patience as we followed those safety procedures that we have in place.

Our thoughts are with our student in the hospital tonight and with his family, and we hope the community joins us in wishing him healing.

We will be offering counselling and support for the students and staff impacted by this tragic event.

We must do everything we can to put student safety first, and we will continue to work with our district staff, law enforcement and community partners who hold us accountable to, and help us reach, that goal.